What the hell will be the point of ENDA if there are religious exemptions?
Several major gay rights groups withdrew their support for the Senate’s Employment Non-Discrimination Act on Tuesday on account of sweeping religious exemptions included in the bill, which currently “allows religious organizations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” The American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center announced in a joint statement that they will not be supporting the bill until the exemption is taken off the table.
The religious exemption has been there since the beginning, and was pretty much just put there to get Republicans to vote for it in order to get it passed. It originally was meant to only apply to actual religious organizations and non-profits, but given SCOTUS’s Hobby Lobby decision last week will now likely end up having to include “closely-held corporations” that feel like discriminating for Jesus as well. Which, given that this includes just about 90% of all corporations, means that ENDA as it stands will solve exactly zero problems– other than that of elected officials hoping for brownie points from LGBT groups for doing pretty much nothing significant.
Now, obviously, something does need to be done. There are still 33 states where you can legally be fired for your sexual preference or gender identity. That is just beyond messed up. But we just can’t settle for an Employment Non-Discrimination act with such a huge loophole. We have to go big or go home here, because if it passes with these exemptions, it will take even more years to undo them.
Let’s be real here. There is not, as far as I know, a particularly huge problem with atheists and agnostics discriminating against LGBT people on a wide and collective scale. Are there some? Sure, probably, there are assholes everywhere and in every group. But it’s not like, a thing. By and large, the problem here is religious people. So having a “religious exemption” like Hobby Lobby’s exemption from covering birth control means that ENDA will accomplish pretty much nothing. It would pretty much be like if we had passed the Civil Rights Act, but thrown in an exemption for KKK members.
Well, actually, it would have been like we included a “religious exemption” in the Civil Rights Act, or, indeed, any other law, in the history of our country designed to protect people from discrimination. People used the Bible to defend slavery, to defend women not voting or working, to defend Jim Crow, to defend pretty much every instance of discrimination, oppression and bigotry in the history of our country. In other countries, they use the Koran and other religious texts to do the same. In fact, there are scant few instances of people going around asserting their right to discriminate against people without some religion to back them up. Every time– “I hate you, and I’ve got Jesus standing behind me saying he hates you too. SO THERE.”
It’s incredibly weird to me that discriminating against people is even up for discussion in the first place. It tells me that people, for some reason, cannot tell the difference between their churches and their homes and their place of work. The difference between public and private. Different things are appropriate for different venues, which is a thing we all should have learned back in charm school. For instance, while it is appropriate to relieve oneself in a bathroom stall, it is not an appropriate thing to do at the dinner table, or in a pew at someone else’s church.
It is not appropriate to discriminate against people in the public sphere for the a very similar reason. We all have to exist in this world together, which means we all must compromise to some degree. Otherwise, we’d all just be walking blobs of id roaming around the world destroying all in our wake. And that would be unpleasant for all of us. The entire point of having manners is to make other people feel comfortable and at ease–and that often comes at a slight sacrifice of our own comfort and ease. Sure, you may feel the urge to discriminate against LGBT people, or to take random craps anywhere you choose, but if you must do that, you must do it in the comfort of your own home, and without involving other people.
ENDA must be passed–like any other bill geared towards protecting the rights of American citizens–without any idiot “religious exemptions.” Otherwise, it is merely an exercise in futility.